By Herb Boyd | Published February 2022
No matter what track you choose on Mabern Plays Coltrane, there are a dazzling array of solos: trombonist Steve Davis on “Dahomey Dance,” bassist John Webber on “Blue Train,” alto saxophonist Vincent Herring on “Impressions,” drummer Joe Farnsworth on “Straight Street,” tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander on “My Favorite Things” and the late Harold Mabern, who died in 2019, on nearly everything, particularly “Dear Lord” and “Naima.” These seven tunes, assembled by Mabern, are a tribute and celebration of Coltrane’s formidable legacy and a few of his most significant musical moments. These are spot-on choices from Trane’s oeuvre and so are the sidemen selected by Mabern for this live recording at Smoke in Manhattan.
Davis gets things underway with euphonious blasts from his horn, a veritable fanfare of notes that at times seem to be voicing lyrics. Alexander is at the throttle on “Blue Train,” and he takes his harmonic and rhythmic cues from the openings provided by Davis and Herring. The pace here is only exceeded by the romp on “Impressions,” where Herring’s horn soars as if summoning Trane to join the session.
Mabern was a pianist of tremendous verve and profound invention, and on each of the tracks he invokes different performers. There are lengthy runs that resemble the pulsating technique of McCoy Tyner; locked chords that bring to mind Wynton Kelly and tingling clusters that often signaled Phineas Newborn. Only this kind of ingenuity and gift could approximate the majesty that Trane bequeathed.
Mabern Plays Coltrane: Dahomey Dance; Blue Train; Impressions; Dear Lord; My Favorite Things; Naima; Straight Street. (63:39)
Personnel: Personnel: Harold Mabern, piano; Eric Alexander, tenor saxophone; Vincent Herring, alto saxophone; John Webber, bass; Joe Farnsworth, drums.
Ordering Info: smokesessionsrecords.com